Note: This article was originally published on ProHealth.com.
Lyme disease is, unquestionably, one of the most challenging and complicated diseases to treat. Many doctors who treat both Lyme and cancer have shared with me that, as a general rule, Lyme is even more difficult to treat than cancer. And sadly, many people who battle chronic Lyme have trodden a long, difficult path, spent thousands of dollars and many years on treatments—only to feel as though they are no closer to the finish line than when they started.
If this is you, I feel your pain. I have been there myself, and I intimately understand the frustration of expending, and spending, all of your time, energy, effort and money on treatments—only to suffer one horrible detox reaction after another and not feel any better at the end of it all. I don’t know why healing seems to come more easily for some than others, but I do know that if you aren’t better, after much effort, it’s not necessarily because you are doing something wrong.
People with Lyme disease are all infected with a unique bunch of microbes, each of which varies in its pathogenicity, virulence and effects upon the body, so there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” treatment that will work for everyone. Furthermore, people with Lyme aren’t just dealing with a single microbial infection; I cringe every time I hear a news reporter say that Lyme is “a Borrelia burgdorferi infection transmitted through the bite of a tick.” I don’t know how this myth continues to get perpetrated, but for those in the media who still haven’t bothered to do their research –Lyme disease is not all about Borrelia, and it is not just spread through a tick bite. It can be transmitted through other insects and from person to person, as well as via other means.
Not only that, but people with Lyme disease are usually infected with multiple pathogenic microbes, which cause literally every organ and system in the body to malfunction, and which, as a downstream effect, creates new health issues. And often, Lyme infections are just one cause of symptoms in people with the disease. For instance, mold and heavy metal toxicity can be a cause or effect of Lyme. One makes the body more susceptible to the other.
In any case, most diseases today, including Lyme, can be boiled down to four causes: environmental toxicity, microbes, nutritional imbalances and trauma, and all of these disease factors are present in most people with chronic Lyme. Rare is the soul who gets well from simply taking some antibiotics. It has just become more complicated than that for most of us.
For this reason, any doctor who treats Lyme disease, as well as all of us who have been infected with Lyme microbes, need to understand that once Lyme becomes a chronic condition, simply going after the infections isn’t going to get people well. The bugs must be cleared out, no doubt, but the body must also be detoxified, repaired, restored and replenished, and its systems balanced, and any other underlying causes of disease, such as mold toxicity, must be addressed.
Interestingly, many of the doctors that I interviewed for my new Lyme doctor interview book, New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Reveal Healing Strategies that Work (coming in October) shared with me that over half of all people with chronic Lyme also have mold toxicity, and absolutely will not recover from Lyme unless the mold is also addressed. Yet how many Lyme doctors test their patients for mold toxicity? Not many.
The good news is, there are increasingly more doctors who are becoming informed about chronic Lyme and putting together more pieces of the puzzle. If you’re not getting better, it may be that your doctor has missed one of these crucial pieces. Following is a short list of factors that affect recovery from Lyme, according to what I have learned from my interviews with dozens of Lyme-literate physicians, and through my own personal research and healing journey.
I encourage you to share these with your doctor so that together, you can find solutions for these issues. The more pieces of the puzzle that you can address, the greater will be your chances for recovery. Keep in mind, not all of the following will apply to everyone, although most people that I know who have battled Lyme have found all of these important to address, to some degree. Also, this is not a comprehensive list; I’ve chosen to share only those that are an issue for the majority of people with Lyme.
1) Mold Toxicity. Mold removal, which I just mentioned, is not a do-it-yourself treatment. Like Lyme, mold treatment is complex and requires working with a doctor who understands the importance of removing live mold from the body as well as removing mycotoxins (or mold toxins) with the right binders (which differ for everyone, according to the type of mold they are infected with and their unique constitution).
2) Non-Lyme Related Microbial Infections. This could include parasites, fungi such as Candida, viruses such as Epstein-Barr, Cytolomegalovirus and other pathogenic organisms such as Mycoplasma. All are common in people with chronic Lyme disease, since Lyme weakens the body in such a way that makes it susceptible to these other “opportunistic” infections.
3) Environmental Toxins. Many studies have proven that we are all overloaded with chemical and electromagnetic toxins. These toxins cause all kinds of chronic, degenerative diseases and can be a primary cause of symptoms in people with Lyme, even more so than the microbes themselves (depending of course, upon the person). We breathe these toxins in; they are found in the air, as well as in our food and water supply. Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, who is featured in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment shared with me in his interview for the book that the incidence of death from neurological disease among women has skyrocketed over 600% over the past 20 years, due to toxins such as glyphosate and aluminum, which are prevalent in the environment. These toxins damage the brain and nervous system so getting them out of the body is paramount for healing.
Solutions for doing this can be found in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, as well as in a short book that I co-authored with Lyme-literate doctor W. Lee Cowden, MD in 2014 entitled, Create a Toxin-Free Body and Home…Starting Today. There are many other resources out there, but regardless of the resource you choose to learn about detox, the most important takeaway message here is that you must make detoxification as much of a priority when healing your body as removing the Lyme infections. It can’t be relegated to something that you do when you have a few minutes of spare time. Toxins play a major role in Lyme disease.
4) Balancing the Body’s Systems. Lyme disease affects the gastrointestinal, neuroendocrine, immune and other systems of the body. In many people with Lyme—especially women—the hormones are completely out of whack, and the body will not recover unless support is given to balance the hormones. For most, this means taking nutrients, herbal remedies and/or bio-identical hormones to support adrenal gland and thyroid hormone production. Vitamin C, licorice, pantothenic acid, Siberian and Panax ginseng and adrenal glandulars are popular adrenal-support nutrients, although some people may also require bio-identical hormone supplements such as pregnenolone, DHEA and even hydrocortisone. Thyroid support may include iodine, selenium, tyrosine and bio-identical thyroid hormone.
In addition to hormonal support, most people with Lyme are deficient in a variety of amino acids, which are used to make proteins for the body. A complete amino acid product can be useful for healing the body, as can specific amino acids to help restore deficiencies. I recommend consulting your doctor to determine which amino acids you might need.
Supporting the health of the gut is similarly important, as most people with Lyme have a damaged gut, as a result of infections and toxins. Supplementation with hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and a quality probiotic is essential for most, as are nutrients to repair the gut such as glutamine, aloe, marshmallow root and/or slippery elm. But again, you’ll want to consult with your doctor to determine exactly what you may need.
These are just a few areas that commonly need to be addressed in order to balance the body so that it can effectively recover from Lyme. Without the right raw materials, the body simply can’t heal, so doing nutritional and other tests is important for discovering what you might need to get to the next stage in your recovery process.
For instance, Vitamin D, magnesium and zinc are all common nutritional deficiencies in people with Lyme, and without these nutrients, your immune system can’t function properly. Therefore, replenishing your body’s nutritional stores, balancing your hormones and restoring your gut are just a few things that will help your body to rebuild itself so that it has the ammunition that it needs to fight Lyme.
5) Healing Emotional Trauma. Many studies have proven that stress, depression and anxiety, which result from both Lyme and trauma, can lead to disease. This is because when the body is in a state of “fight or flight” or high anxiety, and/or depression, the immune system shuts down. For many of us with Lyme, emotional trauma was a precursor to disease, so resolving the negative emotions, harmful belief patterns and thoughts that are a natural outcome of trauma (although not beneficial) is crucial for recovery.
Sometimes, deprogramming the limbic system from its stress patterns, with tools such as Dynamic Neural Retraining, can also be helpful, since the autonomic brain becomes conditioned to respond in a stressful way to situations once it has been programmed by trauma. In addition, there are many tools out there for healing the emotions on both a cognitive and mind-body level; counseling, inner healing prayer ministry, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) are just a few of these.